Master of Arts in International Development Studies


Program Description

The International Development Studies program grounds international development practitioners in the theories, policies, and skills necessary for operating at the forefront of the field. Graduates of the program are prepared to address global development challenges in the most disadvantaged regions and among the most marginalized populations.

The program takes a multidisciplinary and intellectually rigorous approach, paying particular attention to a cultural context, ethics, field-based applied research, and innovative practices. Developing marketable skills and broadening professional experience is a central part of the program. All students complete a real-world consultancy for an international development organization as their final project.

What You'll Study

The IDS program is a cohort-based program which fosters student-to-student intellectual exchange, social engagement, and networking opportunities. Our students take core courses together and interact in and out of class with program faculty and alumni. Most IDS students have some development experience, or at least experienced in the developing world, and are seeking career advancement.

To earn your Master of Arts in International Development Studies you must successfully complete our 40 credit program which includes 10 credits of core courses, 12 credits of Analytical courses, and 18 credits in an Area of Specialization.

Area of Specialization

Students must fulfill 18 hours of coursework for a self-designed area of specialization, developed in coordination with their advisor when they meet to discuss their Plan of Study.


Foreign Languages

Academic coursework in a foreign language, which will prepare students to complete the program’s language requirement*, is required at the time of application. This can be demonstrated by:

  • Study that is equal to four semesters of university-level coursework or equivalent.
  • Completion of formal language training as part of employment (ex. Peace Corps, JET, etc.).
  • Growing up in a household where the language is spoken.

*Students need to have a strong foundation in a foreign language before enrolling to be successful in completing the language requirement during the program.


Course background in economics (micro- and macroeconomics) is a prerequisite to help prepare students to complete the graduate-level economics course(s) required within the M.A. in International Development Studies curriculum. Course(s) must be successfully completed through an accredited institution in:

  • Introductory Microeconomics
  • Introductory Macroeconomics

In some cases, a student may be admitted who has not fulfilled the economics requirement*; in which case, the student is required to take course(s) at an accredited college/university prior to enrollment at the Elliott School.

*Spring applicants are expected to have fulfilled this prerequisite at the time of application.

Where You'll Go

Our graduates continue to pursue a wide variety of exciting careers in diplomacy and public service, business, security, conflict resolution, development, and public health. For 2017 graduates, the top employers included:

  • Chemonics
  • Counterpart International
  • Food & Water Watch
  • Global Environment and Technology Foundation
  • Global Health Unit, Cardno International Development
  • International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
  • Management Systems International
  • Millennium Challenge Corporation
  • SAP
  • Save the Children
  • Social Impact
  • US Agency for International Development
  • US State Department
  • USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance
  • World Bank Group

While you study with us and even once you leave, we'll provide you with resources and support to help you get the job you've always wanted post-graduation. From career counseling, workshops, site visits, and information sessions, The Graduate Student Career Development Center has a variety of tools and tips to get you to where you want to be.

Last updated Dec 2019

About the School

Elliott School graduates are consistently sought after for challenging global careers. What's more, our Washington, DC location allows us to form strong relationships with public, private, and non-pro ... Read More

Elliott School graduates are consistently sought after for challenging global careers. What's more, our Washington, DC location allows us to form strong relationships with public, private, and non-profit organizations that regularly employ Elliott School students and alumni. Read less